495605058_29f95740b4“A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.” ~Lois Wyse

Lunch today with my friend Lucy was a great gift. Our friendship started through the friendship of our sons and has grown well past theirs. She is one of the most optimistic realists I have ever known. Ever the voice of thoughtful reason, her positive spin on the facts have directed large-scale local political campaigns, tamed wild spirited teenage insanity and put her dear husband to rest way before his time.

Sharing my experiences with Lucy is a sure way for me to better understand both what happened and how I feel about it. We are safe to both ask and tell each other things that we won’t ask ourselves and won’t tell ourselves. This benign acceptance of who we are right now, is the nudge that only real friends offer, the push to be a better version of ourselves.

Almost two years have passed since her husband, also a dear friend, left us. Some aspects of death and letting go remain remarkably fresh for years, other pieces recede from view. Close friends bear witness to our lives that make them a different kind of relative. They are the ones we choose for ourselves, who love us in spite of ourselves, not in the obliging way that blood confers; our friends are related to us through our hearts.

The product of an unhappy and disconnected family, I have for as long as I can remember worked to cultivate friendships that were for me chosen family. I have met some resistance and some disappointment from friends who didn’t appreciate the power of the heart connection. Recently I have been sad about the loss of just such a connection. Just talking to Lucy about it though transformed my grief into something softer and easier to carry. Said beautifully by Dinah Craik, “Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

The positivity quest has been teaching me, little by little how to be my own friend. The life-changing corollary to that is being able to witness and appreciate your real friends even more. I am not looking at and lamenting over who is not there anymore. I finally can see how truly rich my real friendships are.